Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Confessions of a Boring Academic Writer

The other day I was looking back at some of the academic articles I have written and I had a somewhat disturbing realization:  I have become a boring academic writer. I recently looked back at some of my writing on this blog, and although there have been flashes of interestingness, I largely use the dry, third-person, detached approach.

I'm not as worried about myself in other areas of life- I really like people, I think I am reasonably humorous, and I think (hope) that the classes I teach are pretty engaging and perhaps even fun for my students. But somehow my writing has become abysmally dry.

I Blame My Academic Training
Why has my writing become so dry? I blame my academic training. As scholars we are taught to be "objective" in our research and therefore we are often taught to write in a formal, objective tone. We are taught to detach ourselves from what we are observing, to be systematic, to be methodical. If you want an example of detached, third-person sort of writing, read my dissertation. Better yet, don't. Unless you are really excited about instructional design or research methods, you will find it really boring.

Now, I am not attacking academic research and writing. In fact, I believe it is extremely important because it provides knowledge that can be used to improve the human condition. I believe that my experience in graduate school was absolutely transformational, and would never trade that experience away. But one unfortunate byproduct is mind-numbingly boring writing, something I would like to change in my own writing.

Sometimes Interesting
I feel like every once in a while I put out something interesting and engaging - I enjoyed writing this post on My Irritations When Flying, for example - but most of the time I worry that I am altogether to detached and scholarly-sounding.

How to Write Less Boring?
So, how can I break free of this serious, academic, dry approach to my writing? (Feel free to view this as a cry for help. Not that I am going to go crazy or gain 50 depression-induced pounds or anything weird like that - just that I am open to suggestions on how to improve my writing). I feel like I need to break free of the boring academic structure that my mind finds itself trapped in.

Any advice from interesting writers?

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